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Coles: Saints ‘fresh and ready to go’ for Saracens clash

We sat down with Saints forward Alex Coles ahead of this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership showdown against Saracens in north London, where Northampton will hope to keep their top-four destiny in their own hands…

Q: Northampton Saints are finally back in action at Saracens on Saturday, how did everyone stay sharp during their two weeks off? 
AC: We’ve been in training! We’ve not really had an extended break – we had a day here and there, but we’ve been in the whole time just training hard and focusing on Saracens, so it’s not felt like much of a break. I think we needed to make sure we kept some of our momentum going, so we’ve just been preparing for Saracens and hopefully that’ll pay off. 

Q: How much are the players looking forward to getting out on the pitch again? 
AC: The best bit about playing rugby is the game itself – training is alright, but we want to be out there, playing for the Club. We’re all chomping at the bit to get out there and play again after a couple of weeks off.

Q: Was a long break from playing really welcome, after the result against Harlequins? 
AC: We did have some really good momentum coming off the back of that Harlequins game, and you want to be able to harness that into the next game. But then also a lot of boys are playing a lot of rugby and, for them, it might have been just what they needed to make sure those little knocks here and there could be freshened up for them to be ready to go. It’s also given us more time to prepare tactically for Saracens. There are two sides to it, but I’d like to think we’ll be fresh and ready to go.

Q: Conversely, Saracens have been playing in the European Challenge Cup during the last two weeks – does that help or hinder them? 
I think Saracens are always going to come ready for battle and they’ll be pretty riled up from that Toulon game. I think they’ll be putting all their energy into the Premiership now, so it’s going to be a really tough battle and we wouldn’t expect to see anything but that from Saracens. 

Q: What have Saints learned from the 30-6 defeat against Saracens in the reverse fixture, in January? 
AC: They’re a tough team and they’re just relentless. One of the things you have to make sure of against Saracens is that you’re always on your game. They feed off mistakes so we have to play our game and we can’t go into our shells, but we can’t give them easy mistakes to capitalise on. I think everyone is really excited for the challenge. 

Q: Saints won their last league fixture at the StoneX Stadium, in October 2019, what are your memories from that game? 
AC: It was actually one of my first starts for the Club! It was one of the first games of the season and we had a few people away for the World Cup, and we turned them over there. That was definitely one of my favourite games so far with Saints and I know a few of the other boys feel the same about it. We know we can win down there, and we know how good it feels when we do, so that should give us the driving force that is needed.

Q: Does it feel you go into this match in a better frame of mind to the match back in January, when the team were going through a frustrating run of results? 
AC: It’s always nicer to go into a game after a win than a loss and you should hopefully have that increased confidence. We try and go into every game with the same mindset as much as we can and I don’t think that will be any different going into this game. 

Q: We’re into the home straight of the season, and Chris Boyd’s time as Director of Rugby at Saints. How much are the players using the latter as motivation? 
AC: That is really important and alongside him moving on are also a lot of players who have given loads to the Club who are moving on at the end of the season. From both perspectives, we just want to make sure that we can deliver something special this season. I’ve only ever been here with Boydy – I’ve been in here from the start with him and seeing his vision and how he wants to play the game. We owe it to him, and to each other, to finally make good on our promise and go as far as we can this year. 

Q: Just how excited are you about the run-in to the season, with Saints having their play-off chances in their own hands? 
AC: It’s what we play the sport for, isn’t it? We’re here for the high stakes situations, including the lead into the play-offs, so I’m absolutely loving it and hopefully I can contribute as much as possible towards a successful run to the end of the season. 

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